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Firing up for Charity
The NYC Sergeants’ Benevolent Association (SBA), led by its President Edward Mullins, held a “Cigar Night” fundraiser at Katch, a local brewery, in Astoria, Queens. The event was spearheaded by Gus Tsiavos, a longtime friend and supporter of the SBA, and Cliff Thieleke, SBA’s Manhattan North Director. Several members of NYC’s finest and law enforcement officials throughout the tri-state area came together to fire up the grill, buy raffles, and light up cigars in support of the SBA’s not-for-profit Care Fund which provides for widows and children of NYC sergeants who passed away in performance of their duties or of other causes.
The NYC SBA dates back to 1899, and has been “semper fidelis” since, in service to its brothers and sisters who, as the SBA maintains, “have the toughest job in the world”. It’s also an honorable one. To carry out your duties as a sergeant means to display attributes of integrity, leadership, experience, objectivity, confidence, physical conditioning, motivation, promptness, and consistency. These qualities create a brother and sisterhood that take care of families and each other. In remembrance of a fallen member, the SBA Fund provides assistance to a variety of events and causes, such as a summer camp, gifts to children at the annual holiday party, a scholarship fund, a car raffle, the annual Sgt. Thomas Keith A. Ferguson 5k Walk, Run, and Crawl, and a variety of other social events throughout the year, along with the support of private and corporate donations. The SBA always remembers and never forgets. Their annual Heroism Awards Dinner is held each year in honor of the four sergeants, John G. Coughlin, Michael S. Curtain, Rodney C. Gillis, and Timothy A. Roy, who lost their lives on 9/11. The SBA is also a great supporter of the Metro New York Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors, a not-for-profit organization that provides resources and support to surviving families of police officers who lost their lives while in service.
At the fundraiser, I was able to meet and talk to many members of law enforcement. They poignantly expressed their camaraderie to each other and the families they serve. Various chapters of the SBA were represented. James Gatto, Staten Island Director, made it a point to tell me that, in the spirit of brotherhood, “We don’t forget. We are still honoring families of 9/11 and SBA doesn’t forget them, bringing gifts and presents into their lives. The police force is like a family and we never forget them. They will always be our family.” Also joining him were Joe Ricotta, Director of SBA Detective Bureau; Anthony Borelli, Health and Welfare Secretary, Gary DeRosa, Financial Secretary, Eddie Conroy, Queens North Director, and Billy Craven, Housing Director. They all expressed the same sentiments. It was all hands on deck as they and several volunteers took turns at the raffle table assembling and arranging baskets, collecting raffles, and making sure that all ran smoothly in an effort to support the families they serve.
So just how far does this camaraderie go? As far as New Jersey and upstate NY. Folks from Cancer Call-Out 58 NJM06, which was started in honor of SWAT Team Commander, Nick Magos, came all the way from Somerset County in NJ. The dates in the organization’s title represent the birth year and year of passing of Mr. Magos who died of kidney cancer. Their primary mission is to raise money for First Responder families stricken from cancer. They are in their seventh year of raising money to over 30 families stricken with life-threatening illnesses, and not just cancer.
Also present were Miguel Bermudez, Chief of Police in Freeport, LI and Keven Edell, a Lieutenant with the Freeport police. They met Gus Tsiavos 6 months ago. For Gus, organizing this event and supporting the SBA and his friends in law enforcement, is a labor of love. He worked at diners for many years. The police officers were always coming in to tell him to be on alert for robberies, and generally looking out for him and the community. Gus was living in New Jersey at the time, and that’s how he met his friends at Cancer Call Out who came to show their support.
Everyone who knows Gus knows he likes cigars. Gus was able to rally the support of several sponsors to make this event a fun and fitting tribute to his friends in law enforcement. While not all smoke cigars, lighting up cigars and firing up grills is certainly a great way to gather up the men and women who keep New York City safe, and to never forget those who have fallen in the line of duty. Among the sponsors and raffle donors were NY Ice Cream, Crosstown Diner, Stefanos Furs, NY Smiles, Northshore Farms, Christina’s Epicure, Southdown Marketplace, Commerce Electric, Cellar 53 Wine Cellar, Christo Fifth Avenue Hair Salon, Nature Friendly Pest Control, International Meat Market, Interstate Foods, Efthymiou Produce, Mediterranean Foods, and Mac Doughnut Corporation. Cigars were donated anonymously, but whether or not you are a cigar aficionado makes no difference to the SBA. Your support does.
As Michael O’Sullivan of the New York State Police so proudly expressed: “I’ve been friends with Cliff and have formed a relationship with the SBA for the past three years. It’s a tremendous paternal organization, made up of good, solid men who take care of each other and their community, and I’m very proud to call them friends.” Cliff Thieleke could not agree more: “It’s important to us to support our fallen brothers and their widows and children. We are part of a larger family.” Indeed it is a larger family. To my pleasant surprise, I ran into my friend Joey Deo, also a NYC Sergeant. It was an honor and a pleasure to meet several members of New York’s finest putting forth their finest.